Federal judge questions government drone program


Kevin Johnson
USA Today
July 19, 2013

A federal judge expressed deep reservations Friday about the authority of the government to carry out targeted killings of Americans in counterterrorism drone strikes abroad and appeared to reject a Justice Department argument that the courts had no role in one of the most controversial parts of the nation’s security strategy.

U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer did not immediately rule on a government request to dismiss legal challenges to the killings of three Americans, including al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son, brought by civil rights advocates and Anwar’s father, Nasser al-Awlaki. But she strongly questioned the government’s assertion that the courts were “not in a position to second-guess” security officials when faced with an imminent threat.

“Your argument is that the court has no role in this — none, none none,” U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer told Brian Hauk, deputy assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “I find that a little disconcerting. The scope of your argument concerns me. It gobbles up all the air in the room. … The most important part of the United States is that it is a nation of laws.”

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